Tuesday, June 30, 2009

King of the Screwups-- K. L. Going

Liam Geller is everyone's best friend. He throws the best parties, has a supermodel mother, and always gets the girl. People can't hate him because he's just such a nice guy. It's like friends and popularity fall right into his lap...

The only person who doesn't think this is great is his father. Liam's dad is a high-powered banker who has no need for his socially advanced but scholastically lacking son. In fact, it seems like every opportunity he has to finally win his father's love, Liam epically fails and embarrasses his dad publicly. After an incident involving booze, a hot girl, and his father's desk in his office, Liam is sent away to live with family. If Liam can't reform his uber-popular party boy ways, he'll be sent to boot camp.

Liam's only saving grace is that his mother sends him to live with Aunt Pete, his cross-dressing glam-rocking Uncle who lives in a trailer park in nowheresville. If Liam can succeed there, he can succeed anywhere... but the question remains, will Liam win his father's love or will he only win the crown of the King of the Screwups?

I won't lie to you... I enjoyed this book but didn't love it. If it were written by any other author I might just accept it for what it is, but this is K. L. Going, author of awesomeness like Saint Iggy and Fat Kid Rules the World! This is basically a fluff book with a good heart, and we all need some of those books, but I have to admit I was left wanting for a bit more. Either way, I would recommend this to girls and guys who like K. L. Going, Tim Tharpe's Spectacular Now, James St. James's Freakshow, or Meagan Brothers' Debbie Harry Sings in French.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rage: A Love Story-- Julie Anne Peters

So there I was in my office, opening my big stack of mail and low and behold, a big stack of ARCs (Advance Reading Copies of books... you know the sneak peaks of books librarians sometimes get) had arrived! AND ever better, there was a book by one of my favorite YA authors, Julie Anne Peters! I audibly yelped for joy and then proceeded to read the book cover to cover on an airplane over the weekend... but remember folks, just because a book is a page-turner doesn't mean it's amazing...

Johanna is a smart, responsible girl. She took care of her mother when she was sick and dying, she constantly watches out for her party-girl best friend, works hard for good grades and pocket money, and hopes to go to college and get on with her life. Honestly, she's pretty vanilla-bland-whitebread, except for her secret fantasies about Reeve Hartt.

Reeve is fierce, uglybeautiful, violent, passionate, and basically the opposite of Johanna. When Johanna gets conned into tutoring Reeve's brother, Johanna pursues Reeve until she just can't say no any longer. Their relationship is tumultuous to say the least, and full of challenges due to Reeve's abysmal home life and violent, erratic behavior. Don't expect a picture perfect happy ending (who would, with a title like Rage: a love story?), but the book does resolve itself in an acceptable way.

So what's my problem with this book? I just didn't love it. I feel like Peters is starting to rely on some old familiar tricks. I saw a lot of similarities between this book and Define Normal (the tutoring, the alternative chick, the "normal" chick etc) and also Far From Xanadu (the wild amazing pixie girl love interest). Also, although the story is narrated by Johanna, I couldn't get a good mental picture of who she was. I did, however, feel very intrigued by Reeve's story and would have preferred to hear about it from her perspective. Am I let down because I have too high of standards for this particular author (I *loved* Far From Xanadu), or was the book just not that great?

I would offer this book to teens who want books with gay characters (that isn't a coming out story), less than perfect love stories, or books about screwed up families.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World-- Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo has a few special interests: he loves horses, classical music, and religious theory. He lives in a tree-house in his parent's back yard, wears blue pants with a white button-up shirt every day, and cannot feel emotion the same way most people do. Oh, and he hears intensely beautiful music in his head, which he calls internal music, and because of this most people think he has Asperger Syndrome. He doesn't; he just lives in a world that's pretty different than the one most people live in, and it's easier on people like you and me to label him in some way.

Marcelo's father hates that his kid is "special." His father, Arturo, is a high-powered attorney and wants Marcelo to work at his law firm for the summer... to join the real world, and to normalize before he sends to him the regular public high school instead of the small special school Marcelo was previously attending. While working in the mail room at the law firm, Marcelo finds that he can feel emotion he never knew existed, and meets people who challenge his ways of thinking. When an issue of morals and good choices arises, Marcelo must decide what to do: should he protect his father's career and pretend that he has no knowledge of the situation, or should he fix the problem at his own family's expense.

Honestly, it's hard to summarize this book. Most of what makes it so good is the way it's written and how the characters relate to each other. I read this soon after I read Anything but Typical, and while they are different stories, it's hard not to compare them in my head as the characters have similar cognitive issues. Anything but Typical was more well-written, but Marcelo in the Real World was much more moving. Has anyone read both, and what did you think of them?

I would recommend this book to fans of Anything but Typical, Curious Incident of the Dog in the night-time, and even Wendy Mass's A Mango Shaped Space.

Mortal Instruments Trilogy-- Cassandra Clare

So you might have noticed I haven't blogged since early last week... and for that I do apologize... but I swear it was for a good reason! I kinda fell down a rabbit hole and couldn't come back out until I ate the Mortal Instruments books for dinner. And boy were they yummy!

Book 1: City of Bones

Meet Clary Fray, a teenage girl who lives with her mother in Brooklyn. For most of her life, things have seemed rather ordinary, until one day she witnesses three tattooed teens murder another teen... but when the murdered teen's body literally disappears before her eyes, Clary knows something supernatural is going on. Mysteries pile up, her mother is abducted, and out of the blue Clary is attacked by something preternaturally evil... a demon. Almost dizzyingly fast, she discovers there is a band of Shadowhunters, a race of beings akin to angels, whose whole purpose in life is to slay demons. Think Buffy but without the vampires... well not entirely without vampires, but I don't want to give too much away. Clary and her best friend Simon befriend a small group of Shadowhunters and try to find Clary's mother... learning that Clary was born into this life in a way she never knew before.

Book 2: City of Ashes

In this book we dive more deeply into the world of the Shadowhunters. Clary and her friends unravel a larger plot of evil than they earlier expected. Her mother's disappearance is not random; a Voldemort-like villain named Valentine is trying to gather the mortal instruments so he can call upon the Arch Angel and purify the race of Shadowhunters once and for all. Clary is slowly falling in love with Jace, her Shadowhunting partner, and while he returns her feelings, there is a major moral and social issue that keeps their love contained. While many second books in a trilogy serve as only a bridge between the first and third, City of Ashes definitely holds its own and drives the reader frantically to the third book.

Book 3: City of Glass

As Clary is learning to control her Shadowhunting power, the rest of her friends travel through a portal to find the last clue which will lead them to Valentine. Although they were trying to protect Clary who has little experience fighting demons, Clary is determined to find a way to defeat Valentine so she can find her mother and basically save the entire human race. Teaming up with the Children of the Night (Vampires), and the Children of the Moon (Werewolves), Clary battles to the death to save the world as she knows it. Twists and turns in the plot will keep readers motivated, and let's be honest, the battle scenes are pretty awesome too.

Overall, I really enjoyed this series. Although some of the elements of this urban fantasy tome were not original, they still felt fresh because the characters were so multidimensional. No one has good intentions 100% of the time, and even the uber-villain, Valentine, can almost seduce you into believing he has the universe's best intentions at heart. Clare touches on some taboo topics in these books, and I admire her dedication to her story, even if there are elements some people might not like. I would recommend these books to fans of supernatural and urban fantasy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Chosen One-- Carol Lynch Williams

The Prophet is not questioned. The Word Of God is not disputed. The Prophet only speaks words that God has given him in a vision. God told The Prophet that 13 year-old Kyra is to be her 60 year-old Uncle Hyrum's 7th wife.

Kyra has spent her entire life in an isolated community of fundamentalists. She spends her days working their tiny plot of earth, taking care of her 20 brothers and sisters, and finding moments to sneak away and discover herself. One day she happens upon the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels... and she learns there is a world beyond the fences that surround their property. When The Prophet decrees she is to marry her Uncle Hyrum, everything in Kyra's mind and body rebels. But no matter what she does, her plan to escape this fate is thwarted. When she is left with the choice to either destroy her family but save herself, or stay and marry her old uncle, she is more than conflicted. Who could choose rationally when faced with violence, abuse, and the though of losing everyone and everything you know forever.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well-written and very engaging. There were parts of the plot that were semi-unbelievable, but that is to be expected out of a book that covers such taboo topics. I would recommend this book to teens who like the T.V. show Big Love, and who enjoyed books like The Patron Saint of Butterflies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

After the Moment-- Garret Freymann-Weyr

A little back-story: So, I am a huge Garret Freymann-Weyr fan. She wrote My Heartbeat, which is a touching story about a young girl whose older brother is gay. She also wrote The Kings are Already here about a young ballet dancer and a chess prodigy, and and my personal favorite Stay With Me which is about sisters, love, and hotels.

So why why why didn't I love After the Moment?? It has all the elements of a good book... interesting characters, a slightly off-kilter plot-line and format, and resolution at the end that leaves the reader satisfied yet still wanting more. It's like all the parts and pieces were great, but put together they just didn't work.

After the Moment is Leigh's story, mostly. When his step-sister Millie's biological father passes away, Leigh goes to live with his father and step-family to help Millie normalize after her tragedy. While living there, he falls in love with a recovering anorexic girl named Maia. Leigh learns about himself as a person as he helps the two women in his life come to terms with their own life's problems.

I guess my issue with this book is that Leigh is the center of the plot, yet he is the most uninteresting character. He is spineless in a frustrating way, and almost greeting card perfect. He kind of reminds me of the way that Chase Crawford acts (he plays Nate on the Gossip Girl TV Show... am I loosing you here?)... you know, pretty to look at but bland and not particularly talented. Also, there are many characters to keep track of, and the most interesting part of the book are these little flashes to the future, and they are way too infrequent.

So I guess what I will say in summery, is that while this is a decent book, it's not great. I'm not sure that it has all that much teen appeal, but the more mature teen reader might like it. Also, people who like a nontraditional, not schmaltzy love story might enjoy it too.